September 15t, 2015. The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain is about to be celebrated; a massive flight of more than 40 Spitfires, Hurricanes and Blenheim has been programmed to takeoff from the Goodwood aerodrome in Chichester, on southern UK.
I know I have some possibilities to see them, but from the air: my honeymoon connection flight from Barcelona El Prat to London Heathrow will fly over that zone approximately at the time the massive formation will be on the air. I’ve studied the routes of the planes thanks to the event’s website: http://www.battleofbritainday.co.uk
My flight, the BA479, probably will fly over Portsmouth in descent to destination, at between 12 or 18.000 feet, with a lateral separation from the Goodwood aerodrome of about 5 to 10 miles. This should be a visual angle of around 30 to 45º below horizon. I study that flight day after day on Flightradar24, and I decide I have to get a window seat on right, on the back of the plane, at all costs.
It’s also possible when I arrive there that the Big Wing would be enroute from Goodwood to Selsey Bill, where they will separate in small groups to flly in several directions over all southern UK.
Well, everything is calculated. It’s only pending the meteorological affair, I need no clouds to see it!
The day arrives. I manage to get the window seat I desired. Before takeoff, I check the window is very clean but the meteorology in the zone is unclear; there’s a fenomenon called Explosive Cyclogenesis in Northern Spain, and Southern UK is also a bit affected.
From the moment of the takeoff, I recorded it all, patiently awaiting for the moment. We cross all France. I read the onboard newspaper and one page is dedicated to the event. We fly into the English Channel. My thoughts goes to the terrible air combats here, 75 years ago.
My camera is scanning below looking for the english coast. All of a sudden, between the clouds, there it is, Selsey Bill! I focus on it with a great zoom, trying to get a stabilised image, where the Big Wing would be perfectly visible.
But nothing. I don’t see them. I scan the coastline, and back to the cape. They’re not here. I focus now on Goodwood aerodrome, but I only have a few seconds before it went hidden by the clouds. Nothing.With a great disapointment, now clouds cover it all, and my efforts to see any warbird through the holes in the clouds are futile. At least I enjoy the nice spectacle of the clouds at different levels.
The descent towards Heathrow continues and we land with no news. I can make some videospotting to widebody airliners there.
When I get wifi a bit later, I connect to Facebook and I read that my buddy Daniel Estalayo, who is down there in Goodwood, comments that the Big Wing has been delayed 2 hours due to bad weather. And when they took off, it was in small groups and never formed together.
But disappointment made room to surprise when I later checked what I’ve recorded that day in a big screen to edit the video I offer in this post. I did not see the warbirds on the small screen of the camera, but they are perfectly visible when I zoom in to Goodwood.
What an irony, I caught the RAF on the grppund 75 years later! 🙂